First Time in Africa!

I love to travel. I love seeing the different colors and cultures and food around the world! And I especially love to see how my brothers and sisters in Christ are serving our great God.

Alyssa Teaching with WhiteboardOur trip to Ghana was two firsts for me- first international trip with my husband (awww <3) and first visit to the continent of Africa. My new friends were so excited that Ghana was my first African experience! So what was Africa like? Let me tell you…

Culture- The culture is built on a complex system of respect for people, especially for those who are older than you are. We rarely carried anything anywhere around music camp because someone always stepped up to carry whatever we had in our hands (down to my water bottle). The students were quick to clean the chalkboard for me and rearrange space so that we didn’t do the work. I was always astounded to see what they could carry and balance on their heads! It’s so nice for them because then their hands are always free.

Alyssa with Food at Mole National ParkFood- The food was definitely unique! We were there during the tomato season so tomatoes were in everything we ate in some form or another. We had fufu, cassava, banku, jollof rice, redred, and gari (just to name a few things :). The flavors and textures of Ghanaian foods are so unique that I don’t even know how to describe them to you… you’ll have to go and taste them for yourself! They also use lots of ground nut (American translation- peanut!) and plantain and cook with palm oil as their base for many dishes.

Shopping- We shopped both in the supermarkets and in the open-air markets of Wa. I love visiting the typical daily market because I love all the colors, sights, and smells; it reminds me of living in Perú and going to the market with my roommate and Peruvian family.

Our trip to the market was focused on buying material for curtains for our dining room/living room space. I loved flipping through piles and piles of brightly colored fabric and stretching out yards of material. Ghanaian fabric can sometimes have “surprises” tucked into the designs, like smiley faces or funny animal patterns when you see it all together. We finally decided on a fun pattern with colors to go with our simple paint colors! Watch for future pictures of our dining room/living room to see what the curtains look like 🙂

Baptist Church in GhanaChurch- Wooden benches, simple structures, open windows- these were the common denominator among the church buildings that we visited. But the church isn’t the building- it’s the people. The people greeted each other warmly and sang each song with all their enthusiasm, rejoicing in what our great Savior had done for them.

Our American churches should be ashamed at our lack of excitement in lifting praise to our Savior through song. The buildings were a little warm (by American standards) but that didn’t stop the people from squeezing another little friend or grandma onto the bench beside them. At one church, I turned around to see that most of the people behind me were under the age of 10 years old. They were sitting attentively and joining in whenever they could.

Music- The best part about teaching music in Ghana was that I was teaching the most eager learners I have ever met. They soaked up everything I told them and stayed in their seats at the end of class to ask more questions and to write down everything I had said. They all loved music and wanted to know how it worked and how to improve on what they already do with it. It was a tremendous blessing to be able to pour into someone else what has been invested in me over many years.

“You Are Welcome”

In Ghana the Best Things are Yello“You are welcome!”

As Mrs. Karis Mapes greeted us, memories of 2018 started to flood back into my mind. The standard greeting reminded me that I was once again immersed in Ghanaian culture. It wasn’t just a dream: I truly was back in Africa.

We had braved 35 hours of flight time and layovers, arriving safely in Accra shortly after 4am. But the weariness was worth it.

I happily sipped on a plastic bag of cold, purified water before going to bed. The sun was slowly making its daily appearance, but we needed all the rest we could get after two days of flying and before our 14-hour overnight bus trip.

Twelve hours later we peered through the large windows as our bus carefully pulled out of the station. The mass of humanity surrounding us parted like the Red Sea as our driver honked and started to move forward.

Loud music streamed through the speakers as we bounced along through town. “Over the speedbumps and through the potholes to Upper West Region we go!” If only that was a real song, nothing would have been more fitting to play on those CrAzY roads.

Suddenly, loud arguing and shouting ensued as we exited the city. I could distinguish a few words of English, but not enough to understand what was going on. But it was clear that someone was not happy!

I looked up to see that the driver had switched from music to movies. The source of the shouting was merely a movie for us to enjoy. Alas, the long night of quarrelsome movies had begun, a staple on Ghanaian bus trips. I closed my eyes and tried to ignore the sounds.

Thankfully, I was mostly successful.

When we finally arrived at our final destination the next day, I almost felt like I was back at home.

“Bzzzzzzzz!!!” The early morning cambus (small, tricycle-like modes of transportation) whizzed by as I exited the bus and leapt over the two-foot deep street gutter.

Mr. and Mrs. Mapes, Olivia, Alyssa, and I retrieved our numerous belongings from the belly of the bus and got the attention of a couple of those cambus. Typically, we can fit two or three people inside these small taxis. This time, we divided up five people, four large suitcases, and five smaller suitcases and bags between the two cambus.

Somehow, we all fit…

“Here we go, team!” Olivia called out cheerfully as we pretended to be as skinny as kids and piled on top of each other.


First Cambu RideAh! Fresh air with a hint of diesel. Riding to the Mapes’ home in an open-air vehicle was such a refreshing way to wake up. It was also a nice contrast to the bus we had just disembarked.

Thus began an exciting two weeks in West Africa. After going to Ghana in 2018 for the first time to help with the inaugural Making Melody Camp hosted by West Africa Baptist College, I got to return this year with my new wife for the second annual week of music.

“You are welcome!”

Over and over again we were greeted by the Ghanaian nationals as they visited us at the Mapes’ home. They are so friendly! Whether you meet someone for the first time or reacquaint yourself with an old friend, they always make you feel welcome.

In the next post I will write specifically about the Making Melody Camp…if I wrote it here, this post would get really long.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for caring!

Back from Ghana and 100 Days of Marriage!

Making Melody CampersThank you for praying for us! We have returned safely from our trip to Ghana and have jumped back into life here in Minnesota.

The final concert for Making Melody Camp in Ghana went so smoothly! Our final rehearsal earlier in the day was quite the adventure when the power went off and we were without a keyboard and lights. But everyone was flexible and we even dodged the raindrops for a partial outdoor rehearsal. Some churches and a few community members attended the concert and thoroughly enjoyed it.

We put together a video summarizing the week of music camp (complete with wandering sheep and Ghanaian outfits!). We are praying that God will provide the next team to serve in Ghana in 2020, and we would love to talk with you more if you are interested!

We also celebrated our 100th day of marriage this week- woohoo! We’re excited to see all that God has ahead in the next 100 days.

Thanks for praying for us! Until next time, love God, make new friends, and eat your snacks!

Going, Going, Ghana!

Going, Going, GhanaWe are excited to share our first big update with you today as we are currently en route to…Ghana, Africa! We made a video to explain why we’re on this trip and what we are doing over the next two weeks. You can access it here on Facebook or here on YouTube.

Our internet access is limited, but we will send updates when we can, even after the trip is over so that we can give you a full explanation of this unique ministry opportunity.

Since getting married on June 1, we have been putting together short videos of our weekly adventures together as a married couple. If you are interested, you can find them on our YouTube page (or on Joshua‘s/Alyssa‘s Facebook pages).  Subscribe to us on YouTube if you want to know each time we post a new one!

Feel free to contact us any time via our contact page! We look forward to telling you more soon! Thanks again for praying for us!